Easy Riders, Raging Bulls — December 31, 2009 / Turner Classic Movies
As a true film buff, I always felt I should know more about the films of the 70s, that I should be a bigger fan than I am. This documentary, based on a book by Peter Biskind, traces the history of filmmaking from the collapse of the Studio System to the rise of auteurs like Scorsese, Coppola, Bogdanovich, and Altman, followed by the young upstarts Spielberg and Lucas, who took films to a blockbuster level. It is a fascinating history told by the directors, screenwriters, actors and producers of those very films, and yet it showed me exactly why I never really developed an interest in much of their work. The era was defined by art that was fueled by drugs, and quite a lot of the “art” isn’t my taste at all. No longer will I apologize for not being so familiar with the films of the early 70s, nor will I feel inferior because I don’t care for Easy Rider or Nashville or Midnight Cowboy or Raging Bull. These are simply not of interest to me. But hearing the history-makers speak of those days and their experiences while making these films is truly fascinating, and this documentary is something every film lover should see just for the history it provides.
Defiance — December 30, 2009 / DVD viewing
Defiance is one of those films that provides another perspective on the Jewish experience during World War II, but thankfully, this story is one of fighting back and taking charge. It is the powerful true story of hundreds who fled to a forest in Belarus and hid from the Nazis for almost three years. Centered on four brothers who took charge of the masses as they came together and formed a community of survivors, it is an important element to the overall impression that history has of Jews during that time. The central performances by Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber (a personal favorite of mine) are phenomenal and truly carry the film. This is a movie I look forward to sharing with my niece and nephews when they begin to study this period of history.
District 9 — December 29, 2009 / DVD viewing
Every critical review said District 9 was one of the year’s best films, but how do you find love and excitement for a story about insect-like aliens forced to live in an internment camp in South Africa? Honestly, you don’t even try because the film itself takes you to that place. What begins with unrelatable imagery becomes a heart-wrenching story about segregation and racial prejudice that is relevant to any society. District 9 is a cautionary tale, yes, but it’s also so compelling and so unique in its presentation. I agree that it’s one of the best of 2009, and if you can stomach it, it should be seen by everyone.
Angels & Demons — December 29, 2009 / Pay-Per-View
I never cared much to see The Da Vinci Code but Angels & Demons seemed much more about the mystery with less offensive religious story than the first installment. And I pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this second film! I’m sure a great lot of that is due to Ewan McGregor, not to mention always-favorite Tom Hanks, but in the end I was pleased with the film and actually looking forward to watching Hanks again in this role.
(500) Days of Summer — December 26, 2009 / DVD viewing
Every good thing you’ve heard about (500) Days of Summer is true, and then some. It is a sweet, sad, funny, enchanting film with one of the best performances ever from Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And it’s the kind of film that you just don’t want to discuss too much for fear of ruining the experience for others. Highly recommended, and certainly one of the best films I saw in 2009.
The Brothers Bloom — December 26, 2009 / DVD viewing
I wanted to see The Brothers Bloom from the moment I first read about it, but somehow it kept slipping my mind when it came out. I’m so happy to have finally made the time for it is enchanting and adorable. Adrien Brody and Rachel Weisz bring such heart and such sweetness to the story, and Mark Ruffalo is uncharacteristically caddish, which was just as much a treat. I can’t say enough about this film. It’s truly lovely and something I look forward to seeing again and again.
The Blind Side — November 27, 2009/ Movies 14, McKinney Texas
I’m not a fan of these kinds of movies, so I was happy to see that Sandra Bullock played it with little sentimentality and a lot more subtlety than she could have for such a formidable woman as is Leigh Anne Tuohy. I really enjoyed The Blind Side, and highly recommend it. Very little schmaltz, very little sap, but a great lot of heart.
Star Trek — November 20, 2009 / DVD viewing
I’ve never liked the original Star Trek series nor any of the films it spawned featuring Shatner. I did like The Next Generation, however, and I am a big fan of JJ Abrams. So, with my limited interest in the mythology and my great faith in Abrams, I gave the Star Trek reboot a try. I LOVED IT! Never before have I found any sympathy for Kirk, but I did in this incarnation. And the casting of Zachary Quinto + his fully realized performance as Spock was the brilliance of the entire project. Every other person was perfectly cast, as well, and as long as Abrams is on board, I will follow this crew into the unknown.
State of Play — November 14, 2009 / DVD viewing
This film had masterful storytelling, powerful performances, and good suspense throughout. Not often does a remake (or retelling) measure up to its source, but in this case State of Play was more than adequate. Very, very enjoyable! And once again, I am reminded how much I love Russell Crowe, in any shape or any state.
Unknown — November 8, 2009 / DVD viewing
I first rented Unknown only to watch the Clayne Crawford scenes, but found myself interested in the entire story. The performances were actually pretty good by all involved, including Jim Caviezel, Barry Pepper and Greg Kinnear, and the story took a little twist at the end that surprised me. Much better than I ever dreamed this film would be!
Attraction — September 15, 2009 / DVD viewing
I thought I really wanted to see Attraction, as it starred some actors I really like, but it turned out to be pure garbage. I used the fast-forward button more than I watched the film, and I was actually embarrassed to have rented it. Not a good thing. Ever.
12 Monkeys — September 13, 2009 / TV broadcast
Not sure why I waited all these years to watch this film, but it is definitely a great one. Bruce Willis is mesmerizing, and Brad Pitt is actually acting, which is always a treat. I truly loved 12 Monkeys!
Steel City — September 10, 2009/ DVD viewing
This movie didn’t interest me at all on first viewing, and I found myself skipping forward to Clayne Crawford’s scenes then skipping ahead again. But when I watched Steel City with director/cast commentary, it really came alive. Now I can watch it and enjoy it as a film, seeing the artistry that I first missed. It is definitely a film with more layers than are obvious on first glance.
For Your Consideration — September 5, 2009 / Starz
Not the best from this troupe of players, but For Your Consideration is good fun nonetheless. It’s just the perfect balance of ridiculata and good humor.
The Wind That Shakes The Barley — September 5, 2009 / Starz
Incredibly fascinating story about the struggles of a divided Ireland in the early part of the 20th century. Cillian Murphy, among others, is astounding. The Wind That Shakes the Barley is an excellent film!
We Own the Night — August 15, 2009 / Starz
This is another one of those films I always intended to see but never quite made time for. It’s not as good as I hoped but I did enjoy Joaquin Phoenix’s performance. Mark Wahlberg, on the other hand, was more or less his usual self, and I had enough of Eva Mendes from her first scene. In the end, I think We Own the Night is one of those films that could wait for cable viewing.
300 — August 15, 2009 / Starz
The idea of 300 was much more impressive to me than the desire to watch it, thus my waiting all this time to finally make time for it. Much as I enjoy a good historical action flick, I just couldn’t get excited about this one. I tried. I really did. But I found it heavy on the design and lighter on the acting, not to mention the storytelling, at times. I finally found myself playing it in the background while doing other things around the flat. Rarely do I divide my time between any movie and other tasks, which tells me 300 just wasn’t my kind of film. Although the scenes of the outnumbered Spartan army head-to-head against their formidable Persian foes was spectacular and the best parts of the movie.
The Ruins — August 15, 2009 / Starz
I don’t watch anything remotely in the horror category, so The Ruins is not a film I would ever voluntarily watch. But when I realized Shawn Ashmore was part of the cast, I decided to give it a try on a cable viewing. It’s still not a good movie, but I loved Ashmore in it. And sometimes that’s really all I need in a film.